Star Trek: Lower Decks Review: “Second Contact”

For the second time in its long history, Star Trek is represented by reruns and a new animated show. The last time that happened, there’d only been one series, and the limited animated incarnation used original cast voices and attempted to stay true to the spirit of its inspiration.

This time, they’re going for cheap laughs, in a cartoon that tries to take a humorous, frequently raunchy look at the Federation, as seen from the perspective of its less-heroic members.

Will it fly?

Title: “Second Contact”

Cast and Crew

Director: Barry J. Kelly
Writers: Mike McMahan, Garrick Bernard
Based on Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry.

Voice Actors:
Tawny Newsome as Ensign Mariner
Jack Quaid as Ensign Boimler
Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi
Eugene Cordero as Ensign Rutherford
Dawnn Lewis as Captain Freeman
Jerry O’Connell as Commander Ransom
Fred Tatasciore as Lieutenant Shaxs
Gillian Vigman as Dr. T’Ana
Jessica McKenna as Ensign Barnes
Phil LaMarr as Admiral
Ben Rodgers as Lieutenant Commander Stevens
Paul Scheer as Lieutenant Commander Andy Billups

Premise

The shenanigans of some junior officers unfold against the drama of a starship which has the unglamorous mission of handling “second contact.” These include the rebellious daughter of Starfleet brass, a first date ruined by a zombie virus, and an awkward encounter with some pre-warp aliens.

High Point

The story is disjointed, but it does a fair job of introducing the relationship dynamics of a few of the major characters, while giving us enough of the others to show their potential for future episodes. The interesting thing about this Trek comedy is, the more it veers towards its source, the NextGen episode of the same title, the more potentially interesting it becomes.

The writers, it must also be said, know franchise history.

Low Point

We laughed a few times but, in the end, the show’s just not particularly funny. This may be a liability in a comedy.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 Basically, we’re watching an animated version of the jokes that fen tell while hanging around a Con Suite, set up in sitcom format, with raunchy moments to let us know it’s not for young children.

Animation: 5/6 It’s good, but not great, and suffers somewhat from the awkward blend of techniques so common to contemporary animated works. The pilot earns a bonus for background detail.

Voice Acting: 5/6 The show features a solid voice-cast.

Story: 4/6

Production: 5/6

Emotional Response: 3/6

Overall: 3/6 The show may improve– NextGen certainly did. At present, it’s neither serious enough to be “real” Trek nor irreverent and crazy enough to be consistently funny. A functional balance may be possible, but the pilot hasn’t found it.

In total, “Second Contact” receives 26/42

8 replies on “Star Trek: Lower Decks Review: “Second Contact””

  1. Jethro says:

    Me: What the hell is Star Trek: Lower Decks?

    Me: *googles*

    Me: Oh hell no.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Some fans are treating it like the “F__ Batman!” of the Star Trek universe. It’s better than that– in a large part due to the central voice actors. But, as my review suggests, I don’t think it’s much better than that. Still, it has some potential and it has found some fans, so we shall see how it turns out. I panned Riverdale‘s premise and pilot, but it has seen how many seasons?

      • I panned Riverdale‘s premise and pilot, but it has seen how many seasons?

        You weren’t wrong, Riverdale sucked. I watched three seasons because… well, I like Archie, and it couldn’t be that bad, and I’d already started, and…. actually, it was that bad.

        I think you were actually kinda generous with your review. It wasn’t a bad show, (certainly better than Riverdale,) and I’ll give it a few more episodes, but it’s not quality enough for me to recommend it to anyone, even to someone who named their kids after Trek celebrities.

        • JD DeLuzio says:

          Pilots get a bit of a pass, and I did think the voice acting and production were solid, if not exceptional.

          But like you, I will watch a couple of episodes and, unless I see a significant improvement, I’ll stop. I actually gave up on NextGen‘s first season in its original broadcast, and started watching again in Season Two because people told me it had improved. I later watched the episodes I missed, but the Trekkie/Trekker wisdom holds. TOS‘s first season is its strongest; NextGen‘s first season is its weakest.

      • Jethro says:

        This isn’t about it being good or bad, per se.

        It’s about the fact that Star Trek used to be a, while not super-hard Science Fiction, definitely hard for TV Science Fiction . It was way more cerebral than most shows.

        Now the movies are action movies. The shows are action shows. And they very much contradict the original shows.

        Now it’s also a cheesy children’s cartoon.

        This is exactly the kind of beating-a-dead-horse that made Star Wars terrible.

        And yes, there was a Trek animated series before. But nobody really watched it, and it was actually trying to be a continuation of TOS.

  2. I enjoyed it more than you did, and frankly I enjoy it more than the other CBS All Access Trek shows. That said, other reviewers with access to multiple episodes are consistently saying the pilot is the weakest, and episode 2 is the one that really feels like the future of the show. I’m hopeful that the issues here are a result of having to introduce all of the characters while telling both A and B plot stories.

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